The usefulness of gyropodes and hoverboards to facilitate urban mobility

Urban mobility is one of the main issues of the day. Cities are trying to relieve traffic congestion on their roads and reduce emissions of pollutants. The use of alternative means of transportation such as bicycles and electric bicycles has developed a lot over the last decade and some people have even chosen to return to more "old school" modes of transportation such as skateboarding or scootering. In the context of the development of mobility within cities and the search for alternative means of transportation, a new aspect of urban mobility is emerging: urban micromobility. With this concept, other adapted means of transport such as gyropodes and hoverboards are emerging. These means of transport fall into the category of MPDTs, in other words Personal Motorized Displacement Vehicles.

MPTs such as hoverboards and gyropods have a motor that is generally electric and allows them to move over short distances at a speed of between 20 and 40 kilometers per hour. They are very maneuverable and convenient to transport, which greatly contributes to their democratization in large cities. They are used to cover the first or last kilometer that connects the users' home to public transport or to their place of work. Their practicality may lead to the following question: in the context of urban mobility, are MPTs a possible alternative to the car?

Gyropode hoverboard micromobilité urbaine-1

What is urban micro-mobility?

Urban micromobility is a form of urban mobility and is therefore one of the issues currently facing large cities. By urban micromobility we mean journeys of less than 1 kilometer, 2 kilometers at most. It can be a trip in its own right, but also the beginning or end of longer trips: the last few meters from the subway exit to the workplace, for example. Although urban transport is currently undergoing a major expansion, with some buses going electric, new metro lines being created, and the use of bicycles exploding, the problem of micromobility is still there. City dwellers are looking to save time on their daily commute in order to have more time for their loved ones or their personal activities.

This need to save time is reflected in the emergence of the use of conventional bicycles and electric bicycles as well as the MPDs: Personalized Motorized Displacement Vehicles. Thisnew way of getting around the city has had to be regulated to avoid overflow and accidents. Traffic infrastructures are constantly being modified by adding bicycle lanes that can be used by cyclists, but also by users of PMDs. Each user of an electric vehicle such as a gyropod or hoverboard must have civil insurance. Other regulations apply depending on the power produced by the devices. Unlike a bicycle or a classic scooter, EPDMs such as gyropods and hoverboards are easily transportable and thus allow a wide range of action.

EPDMs for urban mobility

The word EPDM stands for Engin Personnel de Déplacement Motorisé. Since October 25, 2019, it designates a specific category of vehicle being used for travel and mobility in urban environments. This category includes electric scooters, gyropods, hoverboards as well as monoroues. Electric bicycles are not included in this category, as the electric assistance they provide to assist the user in pedaling is not their primary means of propulsion.

The use of MPDs has been growing rapidly in recent years, particularly in large cities. Faced with the resurgence of these electric vehicles in French cities, the government has decided to regulate their use through rules. The regulation of EDPM was created in 2019 and aims to protect users, but also pedestrians. These rules take up elements of the highway code such as the prohibition of driving under the influence of alcohol or after the use of drugs and the obligation to insure his vehicle. There are some specificities such as the prohibition to ride on sidewalks and the obligation to use bicycle paths and to wear a helmet. There are some exceptions to these rules:

  • It is possible to ride on sidewalks with the EDPM in hand or at walking pace as long as it does not interfere with pedestrian traffic.
  • EDPMs can be used on roads with a 50 km/h speed limit.
  • It is also possible to use some roads with a 80 km/h speed limit.

MPDs such as gyropods and hoverboards are making an important contribution to the evolution of mobility in urban areas. Their use is regulated by the State and penalties can be imposed for non-compliance. The users of these devices can save time to get around by avoiding traffic jams. In addition, the use of EDPMs allows people to move around while using less energy and polluting less.

Gyropode hoverboard micromobilité urbaine-2

Gyropods and hoverboards: what are their specificities?

Gyropods and hoverboards are part of the MPDE category mentioned above. These 2 machines are very similar in appearance and by their electric gyroscopic motor. The 2 machines have 2 wheels connected between them by the platform where the driver stands. Unlike a skateboard or a longboard and an electric scooter which all use a traction or propulsion motor, a gyropod or a hoverboard moves thanks to a gyroscopic motor. This type of motor is very complex, but it allows to keep the "angular momentum" that contributes to the stability of the machine despite the 2 parallel wheels. The driver must create a forward imbalance to engage the motor which will immediately straighten the platform and move the machine forward.

Although very similar, there are some notable differences between gyropods and hoverboards. Hoverboards are easily affordable and can be equipped with various options like Bluetooth. They are also compact and lightweight compared to gyropods and have a motor with moderate power. Gyropods, on the other hand, have handlebars similar to those of a scooter for added stability. Their motors are much more powerful than those of hoverboards, with up to 2,000 watts. Their power and comfort are reflected in their price and weight, which are much higher than those of hoverboards.

Unlike a bike or a scooter, a gyropod or hoverboard allows its user to movequickly within a city while being able to use public transport without having to worry about parking.

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